for his or her reason to support Turkey’s EU accession. In addition to that, 9,2 % said they had nothing against Turkish EU membership if it fulﬁ ls the criteria, while 8,2 % stated that Latvia had not been developed and still was accepted in the EU. Only then came the argument that other countries of the EU would beneﬁ t from Turkish accession (6 %) and that the EU would become bigger and stronger (5,8 %). 3,8 % of respondents said they liked Turkey and Turks, while 3,1 % said Turkey was a rich and developed country.¹⁰¹
When asked about their reasons for opposing Turkish EU membership, the biggest pool of respondents said it was on religious grounds (31 %). One third of the respondents also named foreign culture and mentality as the reason for their opposition. Only 8,6 % said Turkey was not a European country and 8,3 % said there were already enough Turks (Muslims) in Europe. Paradoxically, concerns about human rights, women‘s rights and democracy were small – 6 % of respondents named that as an obstacle. Other reasons mentioned were that
“Turks are too aggressive and unpredictable”; that Turkish EU membership would raise terrorism threats; that Turkish EU membership would cause prob- lems for the EU and that Turkey was a too poor and undeveloped country.
Only 4 % said they feared the inﬂ ow of workers from Turkey.¹⁰²
In addition to that, there are many unknown variables about Turkish EU accession. First, there are questions about Turkey’s reform process. Second, there are questions about the EU’s need to change not only but also due to Turkish accession. Should these questions not be answered in a suﬃ cient way, a special partnership between the EU and Turkey might become more popular not only in Germany, France, Austria and Cyprus, but also in Latvia and even Turkey itself.
Regarding issues that will remain of particular interest to Latvia and could inﬂ uence Latvian public opinion on Turkish EU membership, it is predictable that energy security and Turkey‘s human rights record will be the two most important ones. While the ﬁ rst argument is likely to make Latvians more supportive of closer Turkish ties with the EU, in regard to the second, events like court cases against writers for allegedly ‘insulting Turkishness’ are likely to make Latvians even more sceptic. In addition, fears of the immigration potential from Turkey are likely to contribute to the scepticism. On this topic, no major change in public opinion could be expected, given the unwilling- ness of mainstream politicians to discuss it and the historic reasons for the sensitivity towards immigrants.
Another conclusion to be drawn from the Latvian debates on possible Turkish EU membership could be that there is a need for more debate. As the arguments used in Latvia demonstrate, there is a lack of understanding of the reasons why Turkish EU integration was started in the ﬁ rst place.
is is understandable given that Latvia is a new EU member state and thus has not been part of Turkish-EU relations since the beginning. But this is a good reason for asking local politicians to explain the arguments in favour of Turkish EU membership from the EU’s and Turkey’s perspective, not just mentioning the promise that an older generation of European politicians made in 1963. Is Turkish EU membership needed to strengthen EU’s role in the world, is it needed for economic growth potential, is it needed for the future vision of the EU as a more diverse unity? ese are big questions that should be debated.
In Latvia one could hope for more discussions even among cabinet mem- bers now that the party For Fatherland and Freedom/ LNNK has joined the coalition, with its member MEP Inese Vaidere favouring a special partnership between Turkey and the EU.¹⁰⁴
104) Although there are no written statements from TB/LNNK on Turkish EU accession, MEP Inese Vaidere has said that her position on Turkish EU membership is in line with the party’s position. Source: Inese Vaidere speaking at a conference “Turkish accession to the EU: On Track or Derailed?”, organised by PROVIDUS, in Riga, 23 November, 2006
Explaining the reasons for Turkish EU membership is important also from another aspect – the fact that each member state has the right to veto the opening and the closure of each negotiating chapter. is means that there is room for debate between the public at large, diﬀ erent stakeholders and the government. Should there not be enough progress made on the commitments by both sides – Turkey and the EU – Latvia as much as any other member state can use the right to slow down the process. e EU also keeps the right to suspend the negotiations altogether, in the event that the Commission, or one third of the member states, see a “persistent breach… of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law” in Turkey. us, there is still some room for control and a need to explain the use of this control in the negotiation process – or on the contrary, the continuation of negotiations in spite of everything.
To this end, Turkish EU membership is not only a public relations exercise persuading EU’s citizens that Turkey is just like Europe, because Turkish EU accession is inevitably linked to two other questions: EU’s identity and legitimacy – or the fact that “a union of democracies” should not ‘impose’
continuing enlargement on unwilling electorates”.¹⁰⁵
Finally, if one looks at both the EU and Turkey as they are today, critics of Turkish EU membership anywhere in the world – not just in Europe or Latvia – easily could conclude that Turkish accession would be a mess. e latest developments surrounding the Ankara protocol and the issue of Cyprus only adds to their position. But possible Turkish EU accession is many years away. In 10–15 years there will be a diﬀ erent Europe, a diﬀ erent Latvia and a diﬀ erent Turkey – something that the citizens of the new EU member states might understand better because they themselves have felt how a country can change in just 15 years. us, if voters ask for more accountability from their politicians and politicians do a better job in explaining the reasons for Turkish EU membership, and the reform process goes on, in ten years the European public and Turkish citizens, as well as the sceptics of the Turkish EU membership idea anywhere else in the world could well have very diﬀ er-
ent material for forming their attitudes.
105) “An asset but not a model: Turkey, the EU and the wider Middle East”, Steven Everts, in “Why Europe should embrace Turkey”, Katinka Barysch, Steven Everts, Heather Grabbe, Centre for European Reform, September 2005, pp.48